Things That Make TMJ Worse
by Dr. Scott Bolding
TMJ pain can be frustrating. Even the mildest pain can make it difficult for you to enjoy your life. If you’re experiencing even mild TMJ pain you probably want to find relief as soon as possible.
Rest is the most important thing you can do when you have mild TMJ pain. Your jaw joint is like the other joints in the body. When it’s damaged in any way it needs time to repair itself. This means you need to pay attention to things that make TMJ pain worse.
There are certain habits that can put extra pressure on an already sore joint. Things that make TMJ pain worse include both eating habits and lifestyle habits. Changing these habits will take the stress off of your jaw joint, relieving your mild TMJ pain. And if you have more severe TMJ pain, reducing these habits will help make any treatment even more effective.
Let's Get Back to Normal.
Dental implants can help you get back to what you were missing. Implants look and feel like natural teeth so you can eat what you want and smile with confidence.
Our dental implant specialists are ready to help you get started.
How Does TMJ Pain Happen?
Before looking at the things that make TMJ worse, let’s take a look at how TMJ pain happens in the first place.
The TMJ is like the other joints in your body. It has ligaments, tendons, and muscles around it. The TMJ also has a synovial disc which provides nutrients and lubrication to the joint. TMJ pain happens when any element of the joint is damaged or becomes inflamed.
Sometimes the muscles and tendons around the joint are overworked and become sore. Injuries to the face can make different parts of the joint sore. An injury can also knock the synovial disc out of place. A displaced disc causes the bones in the joint to wear down.
Because the TMJ is like the other joints in the body, we need to treat it like a joint. If you hurt your knee, for example, your doctor will tell you to rest it. They’ll encourage you to avoid anything that will put unnecessary stress on the joint.
We need to treat the TMJ the same way. If you’re experiencing mild TMJ pain you need to do what you can to rest your joint. Rest gives your body a chance to heal.
Of course, that’s difficult to do with your jaw joint. You need it to speak and eat. And obviously, you can’t just stop doing those things. So, how do you rest your jaw joint? Well, you can avoid certain habits that make TMJ pain worse. Avoiding these things takes unnecessary pressure off of the joint, giving it a chance to heal.
Eating Habits That Make TMJ Pain Worse
It goes without saying that your jaw joint is essential for eating. You need it to open your mouth to take a bite and you need it to chew. This makes it difficult to truly rest your TMJ. However, there are certain foods that make TMJ pain worse. Avoiding these foods reduces the movement in your jaw joint, which gives your joint a chance to rest.
Stop Eating Hard, Crunchy, Chewy Food
Eating hard, crunchy, or chewy food is one of the things that makes TMJ pain worse. These types of food often require you to open your mouth wider to bite. And it takes more pressure from your teeth to chew enough. This means your jaw joint has to work harder to eat these types of food. And if you already have pain in your jaw joint, it will only get worse.
Avoid foods like:
- Crusty bread
- Chewy candy, like caramel
- Tough meat, like steak
Instead of eating these types of food, try going on a soft food diet for a while. Food you can eat to help your jaw joint heal include:
- Cooked sweet potatoes
Lifestyle Habits That Make TMJ Pain Worse
Along with changing the way you eat, you may also want to look at adjusting your lifestyle as well. There are certain lifestyle habits that make TMJ pain worse. These things put unnecessary stress on your jaw joint. Many of these habits are hard to stop and a lot of the time you might not be aware that you’re doing them. But avoiding these habits can give your jaw joint a chance to heal.
Stop Chewing Gum
Chewing gum is a common habit for a lot of people. But if your jaw joint is damaged, chewing gum is one of the things that make TMJ pain worse. The repetitive motion required to chew gum can overwork your jaw joint. Over time this can lead to inflammation and pain in the TMJ.
If you’re jaw joint is sore, try to stop chewing gum for a while. Give your joint a chance to rest.
Stop Clenching and Grinding Your Teeth
Clenching and grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, are the biggest causes of TMJ pain. Bruxism is a habit you’re not always aware of. It’s actually your body’s natural response to stress. When you’re stress you may find that your jaw is tight and you grind your teeth while you sleep. These habits put too much pressure on your TMJ. Over time, the joint will wear down and lead to TMJ pain.
When you feel pain in your jaw joint, try reducing stress. Doing this will help your body relax, which leads to less tooth grinding and clenching. If reducing stress doesn’t help we may try a mouthguard which takes that extra pressure off of your jaw joint.
Many people aren’t aware that bad posture is one of the things that makes TMJ pain worse. But the truth is slouching is one of the other common causes of TMJ pain.
Your body is built to work as a whole system. Each part needs to function together. If something isn’t aligned properly then it can cause problems for the rest of your body. We can see this in how bad posture makes TMJ pain worse.
Your body is properly aligned when your head is resting over your cervical spine and you’re sitting up straight. If you slouch your head is pushed forward out of its natural alignment. This can force your jaw to work harder than it’s supposed to.
Try practicing better posture. Sit up straight. Keep your head level. Your shoulders should be gently pushed back. If you work at a desk during the day find ways to avoid looking down too much.
Change How You Sleep.
Believe it or not, how you sleep can also make TMJ pain worse. This is connected to how bad posture affects your jaw joint. In the same way that bad posture affects TMJ pain while you’re sitting, it can also cause jaw joint pain while you’re sleeping. You want to make sure everything is properly aligned as you sleep.
To do this avoid sleeping on your stomach. Sleeping on your stomach pushes your head into an unnatural position. It also puts pressure on your jaw joint as you sleep. Instead, try sleeping on your back with a supportive pillow.
8 Things That Make TMJ Worse. (2022, August 2). Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/things-to-avoid-with-tmj-4582450
Marlborough Dental Centre. (2018, February 27). 4 Surprising Habits That Worsen TMJ Symptoms. https://marlboroughdentalcentre.com/blog/4+Surprising+Habits+That+Worsen+TMJ+Symptoms+/197
Konig, R. (2022, October 8). These Things May Be Making Your TMJ Worse. Konig Center for Cosmetic & Comprehensive Dentistry. https://www.konigdds.com/blog/these-things-may-be-making-your-tmj-worse/
Pay Attention to the Things That Make TMJ Worse
When you’re trying to treat any kind of joint pain rest is essential.
Your TMJ is no different. Resting the joint gives it time to heal.
That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the things that make TMJ pain worse. Reducing habits like chewing gum, bad posture, and eating hard food takes extra pressure off of your jaw joint.
If your TMJ disorder is mild, you’ll find that the pain will start to go away on its own. And if your pain is more severe, finding ways to rest the joint help make other treatments more effective.